Chronology: Apollo X, Apollo Extension System, and Apollo Applications Program (AAP) 1.0

Repurposing Apollo: a modified Apollo Command and Service Module (CSM) (upper right) spacecraft moves through space docked with an Apollo Telescope Mount (ATM) derived from the Lunar Module (LM) lander. NASA's Apollo Applications Program (AAP) would have seen ATMs operating alone, with docked CSMs, and docked with AAP Orbital Workshops. Image credit: uncertain, but probably Grumman, makers of the LM.
This is the latest in a series of chronology posts in this blog. I usually write posts separately, with little regard for how they fit with others; these posts enable me to preserve that approach, which I find productive, while also linking separate posts to tell a larger story. This chronology post focuses on the Apollo Applications Program (AAP).

Begun formally in 1965, AAP grew from the Apollo Extension System, Apollo X, Manned Orbital Research Laboratory, and related proposals of the first half of the 1960s. Though backed by President Lyndon Baines Johnson, who saw it as a logical Apollo successor program, AAP suffered from repeated funding shortfalls and internal NASA squabbling.

The Apollo 1 fire (27 January 1967) took place within the main Apollo Program, but it was the final straw for AAP. The program was not formally ended, however, until the Skylab Program took over some of its Earth-orbital objectives in 1970.

AAP evolved into the three J-class Apollo missions (1971-1972) and four Skylab missions (1973-1974). Some have sought to portray the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) flight as an AAP successor; it is, however, better seen as a spinoff of Integrated Program Plan (IPP) space rescue planning. Nixon-era politics obscured ASTP's link with the IPP.

Apollo Extension System Flight Mission Assignment Plan (1965)

Relighting the FIRE: A 1966 Proposal for Piloted Interplanetary Mission Reentry Tests

Saturn-Apollo Applications: Combining Missions to Save Rockets, Spacecraft, and Money (1966)

"Without Hiatus": The Apollo Applications Program In June 1966

Apollo Applications Program: Lunar Module Relay Experiment Laboratory (1966)

"Assuming That Everything Goes Perfectly Well in the Apollo Program. . ." (1967)

Apollo Ends at Venus: A 1967 Proposal for Single-Launch Piloted Venus Flybys in 1972, 1973, and 1975

To "G" Or Not To "G" (1968)

A Forgotten Rocket: The Saturn IB

Rocket Belts and Rocket Chairs: Lunar Flying Units

As originally conceived, AAP would have included many lunar-orbital and lunar-surface missions. Pictured here is an LM-derived, automatically landed LM Shelter designed to support two astronauts during a surface stay lasting 14 days (one lunar daylight period). The astronauts would have arrived separately in an LM-derived "Taxi" spacecraft. Image credit: Grumman.


  1. If the Soviet lunar program has been more successful, actually landed people on the Moon and looked to create a sustained human presence, do you think some of the more ambition parts of the Apollo Applications Program would have survived? Or was beating the Soviets to the Moon enough and there still wouldn't have been enough political and public support for such a large space program?

    1. I have an alternate history I like to play with in which AAP remained an intact program and achieved some fraction of the missions at various times planned for it. I never invoke the Soviet Union as a bogeyman. The reason is, the USSR never invested enough in its piloted spaceflight program to make it a competitor. Sure, it could goose the US every so often, especially pre-Gemini/pre-Viking, but that was all. The US put the first humans on the Moon, demonstrating its technological might; then, when the USSR told the world that it had always meant to explore using robots anyway, the US clobbered the USSR on that technological battlefront, too.

      So, to make an extended Apollo program and ongoing AAP program work, we have to assume some fundamental changes in how the USA does spaceflight. It would have to be because we wanted spaceflight to be a permanent part of our society. I still think that's essential if we want to have a robust space program. Never mind the latest gimmick; we have to want spaceflight for what it is. That is, our gateway to the universe.



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